When I think of Thomas Edison ruling out 9,999 ways to get a light bulb to work before arriving at the ten-thousandth one that did, I am reminded of the expression that genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.
The same concept applies to business strategy -- the idea of what a company should do to achieve rapid growth is the one percent. It's the 99 percent -- dubbed strategy execution -- that determines whether you achieve your ambitious growth goals.
Until February 9, when I interviewed Mahesh Rajasekharan, CEO of Rockford, Illinois-based Cleo Communications, a supply chain software as a service provider that counts Walmart and Amazon among its customers, I had not seen such a comprehensive example of another key scaling lever. His approach, called "Holding People Accountable," is so good I've added it to my list.
Leaders must decide, say, how fast they want the company to grow and choose the strategies required to reach those goals.
In the fourth quarter, Cleo conducts a strategic planning process in which it articulates its five-year corporate strategy, sets one year goals, and plans for hiring the people it will need to implement the strategy and meet its annual goals.
The benefit of this approach is that enables the company to think about where it wants to be in the long term, while making annual investments which can be adjusted in response to changes in its competitive environment.
Different departments of your company -- such as product development or sales -- should set goals that -- if achieved -- will contribute to achieving corporate goals.
Cleo sets goals for each department annually and quarterly. Its departments team up to set goals to ensure that they line up with corporate aims. While sales and operations set annual goals, product development teams operate with a three year product vision, within which they follow annual product development roadmaps.
Cleo asks departments to present their plan on a single page -- linking their department objectives to the company's goals. These meetings celebrate successes, identify where departments are falling short and describes actions departments will take to get back on track.
Cleo does this through quarterly business previews which highlights progress -- celebrating where goals have been exceeded and committing to clear action plans to reverse course where the team is falling behind.
Cleo views each sales person as CEO of their sales territory To that end the company reviews each region's sales pipelines and deals every week to make sure that quotas will be achieved.
At the other end of the spectrum, it's crucial that companies think about longer term forces that could change demand for the company's products.
To that end, Cleo conducts mind mapping sessions -- a form of brainstorming -- in which people consider key trends such as the rise in e-commerce during the pandemic. Cleo sets up cross-functional teams that identify key opportunities and risks and prepares action plans to seize opportunities or improve processes.